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Learning Log, Dec 2020

Work/life balance was a dubious concept prior to the holidays, so many of the investments I made into self-directed learning came after the holiday break. The exception was some Japanese study!


Many moons ago, I started learning a bit of Japanese in preparation for travel to the country. I actually can't recall what the trigger was to revisit the language, but I've started studying Japanese again:

  • I started by spending some time refreshing and practicing my kana. Hiragana has always been easier for me than katakana (used for borrowed words). Maybe because so many of the forms look very similar in katakana, and you come across these less often in early vocabulary.
  • I've picked up my copy of the Genki textbook and am working through the first chapter (some basic greetings, time telling, numbers, etc).
  • I started using Anki for flashcards, which seems to be pretty widely used in language-study communities. Likely because it naturally helps support a spaced-repetition practice: you can select whether a term was easy/hard/needs another repeat, and Anki will schedule when to next show you that term. I also like the fact that you can export flashcard decks. The native apps are ugly as sin, so I pretty exclusively use the mobile web app.
  • At some point I discovered the "flick" gesture on iOS's Japanese keyboard, which makes it so much easier to type out kana. Instead of tapping , then holding and dragging to select , you can simply swipe left from and the keyboard will select for you.

3D Art

Speaking of picking study up again, staycation gave me the chance to pick back up on 3D for Designers. Working through the "form" section and really excited about the tools available to 3D-ify type!

A Fiber Blog

I also spent some of my free time putting together a blog for my fiber crafts.

Site header that says Melanie Richards is knitting, sewing, and weaving

I'd like to level up certain skills in all 3 hobbies: knitting, sewing, and weaving. It would be neat if someday most of my wardrobe was homemade. There's a really great and joyous community around these crafts (sewing in particular, IMHO) and I'd like to participate in that culture of open learning. Unfortunately fiber cultures are mostly centered around a certain social media network, but who knows—maybe RSS will make a comeback someday, or we'll all move on to another social platform. I'm spinning up a blog because I'd like to document my progress all in one place and, well, I'd like to see indie blogs make a comeback!

Working on the first couple blog posts and the moment and will publish the site in early January.

On the Internet

  • Ordered a new Filco for my forever-at-home "office" and fell deep down a mechanical keyboard rabbit hole. Scheming about making keycaps from polymer clay or resin. I should probably chill on hobbies just a *little* bit, so for now I'll take your recs on favorite keycap sources!
  • Delighted by the ceramic art of Katie Rose Johnston. I love this multi-compartmental, multi-legged shelf.


Syllabus by Lynda Barry

Leaving you with a couple quotes on creativity and image-making from Lynda Barry (disclosure):

Daily practice with images both written and drawn is rare once we have lost our baby teeth and begin to think of ourselves as good at some things and bad at other things. It's not that this isn't true…but the side effects are profound once we abandon a certain activity like drawing because we are bad at it. A certain state of mind—(what McGilchrist might call "attention") is also lost. A certain capacity of the mind is shuttered and for most people, it stays that way for life. It is a bad trade.


We know that athletes, musicians, and actors all have to practice, rehearse, repeat things until it gets into the body, the "muscle memory", but for some reason, writers and visual artists think they have to be inspired before they make something. Not suspecting the physical act of writing or sdrawing is what brings that inspiration about. Worrying about its worth and value to others before it exists can keep us immobilized forever. Any story we write or picture we make cannot demonstrate its worth until we write it or draw it. The answer can't come to us any other way.

Keep making, even if things turn out wonky. Try not to mind the gap.


  1. Disclosure: I’m an affiliate of Any purchases you make using my link will earn me (and local bookstores!) a small commission.


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